Piracy can be defined as the unauthorized taking of another person’s content. It has affected several industries, especially the music industry where illegal downloaders will copyright and steal songs from a musician and then share it on the internet. Although most people consider piracy a bad thing, there are some cases where piracy can be good. In Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture, Lessig states, “Many kinds of piracy are useful and productive, to produce either new content or new ways of doing business.”
According to the documentary we watched in class, one musician quotes, “most good musicians do not imitate, they steal.” Weird Al is a famous musician who is known for his humorous songs that parody what our society listens to today. Weird Al uses the same melody and background music but only changes the words to the songs, making fun of the artists. Weird Al’s Don’t Download This Song describes the perils of online music file sharing and references several court cases related to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). (Wikipedia)
An album known as The Grey Album was created by the musician Danger Mouse. The album is a mashup that collaborates the rapper Jay-Z’s The Black Album with unauthorized instrumental samples from The Beatle’s The White Album. Despite that both Jay-Z and The Beatles said they were fine with the project, the album and its distributions came to a halt. According to the words from some wise individual from the documentary we watched in class, “if we had a more rational system this album would of made a lot of money.”
In most of the scenarios, these musicians are not trying to be thieves, instead they just did not know. Nevertheless, I believe that if you are going to sample someone else’s music, you must have their permission first. Furthermore, I believe that sampling is good and leads to many great songs for the future. For example, the well-known MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” sampled Rick James “Super Freak.” The two are both GREAT songs!!!
In the case of people who illegally download music on the internet: how harmful is sharing and downloading music for free on the internet? According to Lessig, “the RIAA estimates that 803 million CDs were sold, while 2.1 billion CDs were downloaded for free. Thus, although 2.6 times the total number of CDs sold were downloaded for free, sales revenue fell by just 6.7 percent.” How is this the case? Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to that, however, as we can see there is not a dramatic impact from downloading CDs online.